Review: Miss Sloane

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DIR: John Madden • WRI: Jonathan Perera • PRO: Ben Browning, Kris Thykier, Ariel Zeitoun • DOP: Sebastian Blenkov • ED: Alexander Berner • DES: Matthew Davies • MUS: Max Richter • CAST: Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Miss Sloane is first and foremost a Jessica Chastain vehicle. Taking on the titular role, she drives the story forward with her powerful delivery and mastery of a sometimes-wayward script. Elizabeth Sloane is an aggressive lobbyist – a job that exists in American politics, whereby ‘causes’ (or, more usually, ‘vested interests’) are argued and pushed to powerful voting Senators in government to ensure that bills live or die on their word. And Miss Sloane is very good at her job. We open, however, with Elizabeth being called before a congressional hearing led by Senator Ronald Sperling (John Lithgow) to assess whether she violated Senate ethics (such as they are!) during her time working for Cole Kravitz & Waterman – a Washington DC lobbyist firm.

The film frames a back-story around these Senate hearings, and we hop in time three months’ previous, where Elizabeth is approached by the gun lobbying platform to take on their newest attempt to block a new bill. The proposed purchasing restrictions – a so-called Heaton-Harris bill – would expand background checks on gun ownership, and the gun lobbying/gun purchasing lobby’s response to this is to specifically target women in their new push for a buying market to show resistance to the bill. So, they feel that Elizabeth’s position as both a cutthroat lobbyist and woman will give her the edge to push through their agenda. Instead, she laughs at the ridiculousness of their proposal, and takes up the offer of a rival firm, Peterson Wyatt – headed by Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong), to lobby against the gun purchasing platform, and argue for the Heaton-Harris bill. Elizabeth takes most of her staff with her when she leaves, with the exception of her put-upon assistant Jane Molloy (Alison Pill), who opts instead to stay with the powerful Cole Kravitz & Waterman firm – thereby pitting herself against her erstwhile mentor and boss.

The film untangles the complicated web of governmental twists and turns a bill takes on its way to being passed – showing the underlying duplicity of Senators as their votes are begged, borrowed and bought from both sides. Each lobbying firm pulls out all of the stops in attempting to undermine the other, and win supporters for their play. However, things quickly become personal, as a hearing is pushed forward by Elizabeth’s ex-firm to investigate possible ethics violations that took place while working with them. Meanwhile, we begin to question how far she is willing to go for her own ends – even though they might eventually justify the means – as things around her begin to unravel, with her personal and professional life showing signs of disintegration, while her every movement is dragged up before a congressional hearing. Taking advantage of personal knowledge of co-workers to ambush them for her own ends; using and abusing those who believe themselves to be her friends; and popping pills to keep her insomnia in check, she buckles under the pressure of maintaining the persona of an untouchable, and unbreakable, woman of power.

Miss Sloane is an exposé of the underbelly of American politics – though, of course, these days that’s less of a hidden world – that manages to be really entertaining and enjoyable, despite the majority of the action taking place in Senate hearings and lobbyist boardrooms. Hinging hugely on Chastain’s magnificently obsessive performance, this could very easily have been a stereotypical machinating hardass, but she gives the character an essential humanism, making us pity Elizabeth while simultaneously questioning her motives. A Capitol Hill ‘whodunnit’, Miss Sloane is very engaging – the back and forth between the characters is fast paced and intelligent (for the most part), and the twists and turns are both satisfying and occasionally gasp-worthy. A political thriller that could have done with a little more editing to trim some of that fat running time (132 minutes!), it’s nonetheless entertaining, and somehow manages to hold attention even in the overwrought third act.

Sarah Griffin

132 minutes
15A (See IFCO for details)

Miss Sloane is released 12th May 2017

Miss Sloane – Official Website

 

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Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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DIR/WRI: James Gunn • PRO: Kevin Feige • DOP: Henry Braham • ED: Fred Raskin, Craig Wood • DES: Scott Chambliss • MUS: Tyler Bates • CAST: Chris Pratt, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel

Judging by the Thor: Ragnarok trailer released last week, the Guardians effect has filtered through the Marvel Comic Universe… lifting other instalments to its self-aware, fast-talking, cool nostalgia, and bringing us comic book adaptations that are fun, colourful, and entertaining as hell.  Pitched somewhere between the great character evolution of Captain America and the deadpan R-rated craziness of Deadpool, the burden was definitely on Guardians Vol. 2 to deliver, and give us a sequel worthy of the hype.

Plot first!  We rejoin the Guardians (Peter Quill/Star-Lord – Chris Pratt; Gamora – Zoe Saldana; Drax – Dave Bautista; Rocket – Bradley Cooper; and Baby Groot – Vin Diesel) a few months on from where we last left them as they work a job for the Sovereign people, led by Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), protecting powerful and lucrative batteries on their planet.  A genetically perfect, (and irritatingly sanctimonious), race, they would rather risk the Guardians life than that of their engineered people.

The Guardians each do what they do – while Baby Groot adorably introduces us to Awesome Mix Vol. 2, the all-important soundtrack to our story.  When the irredeemably thieving Rocket angers them, the Sovereign give chase to the Guardians, who now have Gamora’s ex-sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) in tow, as they stumble across a mysterious man, Ego (Kurt Russell), who may hold the key to Quill’s alien parentage.  Travelling to an unknown planet, in the company of Ego and his empath, Mantis (Pom Klementieff), while pursued by both the Sovereign people and Quill’s old crew of Ravagers – led by murderous-father-figure Yondu (Michael Rooker) – the struggling group must face what it really is to be a family in this crazy universe.  Just as the cracks begin to show in their friendships, a deadly new power threatens the entire galaxy… and nobody else has a name that’ll lend itself more perfectly to protecting it!

There are some heartfelt moments in this instalment, especially when harking back to Quill’s mother’s death – already a tough opener from the first movie – and how Quill deals with the possibility of having a father, as well as what that means for who he is as a part-human, part-alien.  Meanwhile, Gamora and Nebula also try to cope with their upbringing by the cruel and sadistic Thanos, while Rocket battles his own demons as a cybernetic creation, and Drax mourns his wife and children.  Aside from all these deep and meaningful emotions, Guardians Vol. 2 continues with the plan set forward in the first – to have fun, be irreverent, thread the fine line between criminality and legality, and dance, dance, dance.

Where it loses points is in marrying the deep plot bits with the entertainment – it mostly works, but it hits the brakes a little on the forward momentum, while the final battle loses itself in too much CGI splurging.  However, the main setups are great fun, and the back and forth between the cast still has humour and proper zing, which makes it a joy to watch overall.  The new characters bring conflict, opportunities for laughter and some necessary distractions, and the old characters evolve and deepen into their roles

Not quite reaching the all-out perfection of the original, Guardians Vol. 2 is still a brilliantly cool addition to the MCU, soundtracked at every beat with nostalgic hooky lines and riffs, and mostly delivering on the promise of the first.  Since James Gunn has signed on for Vol. 3, keeping hold of the reigns where Joss Whedon let the studio take too much control, we look set for more fun times with these hilarious friends/family/misfits… and they’ll never break the chain (awesome mix reference!).

Sarah Griffin

135 minutes
12A (See IFCO  for details)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is released 28th April 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2  – Official Website

 

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Review: Hacksaw Ridge

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DIR: Mel Gibson • WRI: Robert Schenkkan, Andrew Knight • PRO: Terry Benedict, Paul Currie, Bruce Davey, William D. Johnson, Bill Mechanic, David Permut • DOP: Simon Duggan • ED: John Gilbert • DES: Barry Robison • MUS: Rupert Gregson-Williams • CAST: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey 

Based on the true story of the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honour, Hacksaw Ridge tells the tale of Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), a young man whose religious beliefs preclude him from carrying or using a weapon.  The story starts with Desmond as a young child, watched over by his father Tom (Hugo Weaving) – who drinks heavily and suffers terribly from his time in the First World War – and long-suffering religious mother, Bertha (Rachel Griffiths).  One pivotal day while play-fighting with his brother, things take a turn for the worse and he almost kills him with a brick.  The incident has a lasting effect on Desmond, who becomes a pacifist and devout Seventh-day Adventist, following in the footsteps of his mother.  Later in life he meets beautiful nurse Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer), falling in love just before enlisting in the army as a pacifist combat medic.  His religious beliefs come under immediate fire from the establishment, including by Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn) and Captain Glover (Sam Worthington), and his fellow soldiers – who struggle to understand the apparent stupidity of someone who would walk onto a battlefield unarmed.  After lengthy legal issues, he is assigned to the 77th Infantry Division and shipped off to Okinawa, where he and his compatriots are sent to overtake the notorious Hacksaw Ridge.  Proving his worth beyond anyone’s expectations, Doss proceeds to show his bravery as he willingly enters the inferno time and again, without a weapon to defend himself.

 

Directed by Mel Gibson, who was approached in the early 2000’s to helm the film but resisted for almost a decade, Hacksaw Ridge would seem to fit perfectly into the director’s penchant for blending violence and religion in a palatable manner.  Paying respect to a real-life person, as well as wallowing in the usual heavily-patriotic wartime portrayals of soldiers, can sometimes leave a real-life biopic to come across as pandering and lacking in real insight.  However, Hacksaw Ridge manages to rise above the rest in this – with a pleasantly gawky and likeable Garfield holding the reins on giving a gangly cornstalk from Lynchburg, Virginia the humanity and relatability necessary for such an unbelievable character.  The fascinating thing, of course, is that the most unbelievable stories are quite often the true ones – as is the case with Desmond Doss.  His fellow soldiers offer a veritable who’s-who of stereotypical 1940s Americana – with nicknames like Tex and Hollywood – but the jingoism is quickly replaced by blood, guts and reality as these boys rush headlong into war in scenes of startling veracity and brutality.  Gibson’s battlefields are epic, as always, and these scenes – though a long time coming in the film – hammer home the bravery of this real life participant in a vicious war.  Biopics can suffer from too much reverence, and Doss is certainly portrayed minus any blemishes or warts – but somehow, with the underlying truth of his bravery to sustain it, the representation doesn’t come across as sickly or painfully naff.

 

While the film suffers from some heavy-handed 1940s stereotypes, cheesy setups, and an overuse of slow-mo, the immersive and visceral battle scenes more than make up for any early descents into mawkishness.  The truth is stranger than fiction, as Doss’s wartime heroics really have to be seen to be believed, and the story carries itself forward in fascinating style – holding the attention until the last.  Flawed, but entertaining, Hacksaw Ridge celebrates a pacifist in a time when killing was currency, and is a welcome reminder of the brutality of the battlefield in our own modern times, when war is fought at the push of a button.

Sarah Griffin

139 minutes
16 (See IFCO for details)

Hacksaw Ridge is released 27th January 2017

Hacksaw Ridge – Official Website

 

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Review: T2: Trainspotting

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DIR: Danny Boyle • WRI: John Hodge • PRO: Andrew Macdonald, Danny Boyle, Christian Colson, Bernard Bellew • DOP: Anthony Dod Mantle • ED: Jon Harris • DES: Patrick Rolfe, Mark Tildesley • MUS: Justin Hurwitz • CAST: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle

Twenty years on from the original film, and twenty years on in the lives of the main characters, Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to Edinburgh from his life in Amsterdam.  Visiting the city he thought he had left behind when he ran out on his friends (and Begbie, of course!) two decades previously with a bag of cash, he wants to make amends in some way for what those intervening years have done to them all.  Reconnecting with Daniel ‘Spud’ Murphy (Ewen Bremner) also reconnects him with his old companion, heroin – something that hasn’t gone away just because he did.  Slightly more contentious is seeing erstwhile best friend Simon ‘Sick Boy’ Williamson (Jonny Lee Miller), considering all that occurred at their last meeting.  Renton tries to find a way to heal the wounds, and maybe make some money with Sick Boy’s latest scam, involving his girlfriend Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova), while also avoiding the enduring rage of Francis ‘Franco’ Begbie (Robert Carlyle), who has recently escaped from prison and is rampaging through Edinburgh.  Nostalgic for the past, angry at the present, and disillusioned by the future, Renton and his friends must find a way to be alright in 2017…a year they never thought they’d live to, and never prepared to face.

 

Trainspotting was the ultimate ode to the Brit-Pop, Rule Brittania 90s, with an iconic soundtrack and a ‘choose life’ poster that graced the walls of every young adult of the era – my own included.  The thoughts of revisiting these old friends was as terrifying as it was alluring – could they do justice to a formative, seminal film that defined an era?  The answer, thankfully, is a resounding yes!  Ewan McGregor worried that he ‘wasn’t Scottish enough’ to return to the role – which is exactly what Renton seems to feel as he strolls through an unfamiliarly gentrified Edinburgh, past craft beer pubs and urban-picnic cafés, into the forgotten areas that exist in every city – the tower blocks and the closed-down industrial estates, teeming with people like Spud and Sick Boy, who also can’t seem to function in this brave new world.  As with the original, it’s Spud who exemplifies the tragedy of a time that moves by too quickly, and leaves many stranded on platforms unable to find the wherewithal to buy a ticket and board a train to the promised future.  Sick Boy is scamming his way through life, capitalising on those who still yearn to belie their sanitised public images by mixing with the underbelly of the city.  Begbie still stands, as he always did, an ode to toxic masculinity – overflowing with hatred for a world that he can’t navigate by pure violence anymore, and lashing out at everyone who stands in his way.  One thing that still makes sense to him is the betrayal of Renton twenty years ago, and he clings to the rightness of this grudge with the zeal of the wronged.  Against all of this, Renton is still our everyman, standing on the fence with total oblivion on one side, and possible redemption on the other – or perhaps simply showing us the aging face of a man who never thought enough about the future to actually imagine himself in it.

 

The soundtrack stumbles slightly, though it’s impossible to envisage anything being as pitch-perfect as the first, and it’s difficult to imagine what newcomers might feel about this as a standalone film.  I’m not sure that those who come late to the Trainspotting train can get the same from this movie as those of us lucky enough to see it at the right time in the 90s, but these really are minor quibbles for a pretty spot on film. On the Irish end, mention has to be made of the absolutely perfect use of The Rubberbandits’ ‘Dad’s Best Friend’, in a scene that suits the song, the accompanying video, the characters themselves, and the film entirely; their anarchic smarts are exactly what Renton and Sick Boy would be engaging with at this point in their – and our – collective growing-up.

 

Hilarious and devastating, with quick-fire dialogue and black, black humour, T2 gives us just as much honesty as the original did.  Filled with flashbacks, nostalgic mirroring of iconic conversations, an updated ‘choose life’ monologue for the lost generation, and wonderfully funny culture clashes – exemplified by Begbie standing in a nightclub, watching the millennial generation dance ironically to Radio GaGa and Run DMC – this is a sequel utterly deserving of the original.  Which is the absolute highest of praises I can give to this welcome revisit to old friends.

 

Sarah Griffin

117 minutes
18 (See IFCO for details)

T2: Trainspotting is released 27th January 2017

T2: Trainspotting– Official Website

 

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Review: Collateral Beauty

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DIR: David Frankel • WRI: Allan Loeb • PRO: Anthony Bregman, Bard Dorros, Kevin Scott Frakes, Allan Loeb, Michael Sugar • DOP: Maryse Alberti • ED: Andrew Marcus • DES: Beth Mickle • MUS: Theodore Shapiro • CAST: Will Smith, Keira Knightley, Kate Winslet


We open on successful advertising executive Howard Inlet (Will Smith) speaking to an enthralled crowd of workers, including his partners Whit Yardsham (Edward Norton), Simon Scott (Michael Peña) and Claire Wilson (Kate Winslet).  Howard lays out his tenets of advertising – three central themes that all successful campaigns must use to connect with people on a deep and emotional level: Love, Time and Death.  Fast forward two years, and Howard is dealing with the loss of his six-year-old daughter by withdrawing from life and from his firm – leaving his partners, and workers, on the receiving end of possible bankruptcy as he ignores his clients.  Howard writes three angry letters to these tenets he so espoused, which are intercepted by a the matronly Sally Price (Ann Dowd), a PI hired by Whit, who gets away with spying for the simple reason people don’t notice that she’s there.  With the possibility of the firm’s collapse looming, and at the end of their tether, his friends decide to force a way into his veil of grief by hiring actors to each play the role of Love (Keira Knightley), Time (Jacob Latimore) and Death (Helen Mirren), and respond to his deeply personal letters.  They hope to film his reactions, frame him, and have him declared insane, thereby allowing them to take control of – and save – the company.  As their plan unfolds, Howards finds himself discovering a human connection with a grief counsellor suffering her own loss, Madeleine (Naomie Harris), and perhaps a window of light in his dark life.

 

Directed by David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada, 2006; Marley & Me, 2008; Hope Springs, 2012), and written by the eclectically random Allan Loeb, with a heavy, heavy hand you can see what the filmmakers are trying to do here – make sense of grief by using proxies (in this case Love, Time and Death) to draw out emotional responses.  However, when you use proxies, you get proxy replies – and nothing in this film feels real or heartfelt.  For starters, the premise that these ‘friends’ are doing this to Howard – declaring him insane rather than working harder to be a friend, and help in some way.  Grief is not something that simply passes, or an inconvenience that needs to be easily ‘gotten over’.  It’s a shocking lack of understanding about true emotion, and means that the film comes across as patronising and unfeeling, when I’m sure quite the opposite was the intention – after all, it really is quite a cast to come together for something that ends up being so melodramatic and false.  Will Smith acts his socks off, as he usually does, in an attempt to give Howard the emotional resonance a character like this deserves.  Each of his friends – Norton, Winslet and Peña – have personal tragedies or struggles that makes their own lives as convoluted and disturbed as Howard’s, and a vastly superior film would have been to watch these sometimes-great, but generally pretty good, actors hash out real emotion onscreen.  Surrogate interferences from Love, Time and Death serve simply as Hollywood-esque responses to actual reality, and distract from the possibility of a real story at the heart of the film’s intentions.

 

Despite game attempts by various cast members, it can’t stand on its own two feet, and crumbles under the weight of a simplistic script that bounces from comedy to melodrama with disarming frequency.  A disappointing movie, overall, that lacks any self-awareness, Collateral Beauty has no real heart in its shallow depths.

Sarah Griffin

96 minutes
12A (See IFCO for details)

Collateral Beauty is released 26th December 2016

Collateral Beauty – Official Website

 

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Starting a Conversation: Twice Shy

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Sarah Griffin examines how Tom Ryan’s feature Twice Shy explores and humanises abortion.

A thoroughly Irish movie, about a thoroughly Irish subject, Twice Shy has – despite not getting general release – been gaining considerable traction.  The second feature from writer/director Tom Ryan, working closely with producer Fionn Greger, it tells the story of Andy (Shane Murray-Corcoran) and Maggie (Iseult Casey), two young people setting out on a relationship, and what happens when the world intervenes.  “The story for Twice Shy came about from my desire to tell a love story”, says Tom. “I also wanted to make something with a bit more complexity than my debut film, Trampoline.  I’m attracted to character dramas, and I thought that a young romance put to the test by an unplanned pregnancy would be an engaging story with a lot of room for character development.”  Abortion is, of course, a pivotal topic right now for women throughout Ireland – as evidenced by the recent turnout for the 5th Annual March for Choice in Dublin, the visibility of t-shirts and jumpers announcing support, and a very real discussion on this central issue beginning to emerge in the media.

 

Twice Shy also does what cinema, with all its arts, does best – humanise what is often thought of in the abstract, and gives us two characters we can get to know intimately as we watch them traverse the obstacles of tough decisions.  Tom Ryan agrees that this is an important point, in terms of what the story brings to the screen, and vice-versa.  “Cinema is an ideal medium to humanise and explore topical issues that may be perceived as controversial.  The characters of Andy and Maggie allowed us to bring balance and context to what is often a polemical debate.  This is an issue that is very rarely approached with such sensitivity in Irish film, so it felt important to the whole cast and crew to tell this story and do it justice.”  There’s no denying that the issue of abortion is still a divisive one, in a country that exports the problem on a daily basis to England and beyond, but it is also an ever-present one.  By opening up this dialogue, films like this give us the opportunity to bring it into our daily conversation, and really get to grips with what can be a taboo subject.  “It also allows us to humanise the issue of abortion and portray it in a sensitive light”, Tom continues.  “Usually in the media, this issue gets brought up in the form of a debate.  One of the goals with Twice Shy was to tell the story of our two lead characters… and through their relationship we could portray the issue of abortion in what is hopefully a relatable and sensitive way.”

 

The lead characters, Maggie and Andy, are from a small town in Tipperary, and move to Dublin to go to college – as so many do.  They forge their relationship in comforting and familiar rural surroundings, and bring it to the city, where the distractions of growing up and growing apart are all entwined in the adult experiences they are seeking.  They are anchored by strong father figures – played, with suitable gravity and magnetism, by Ardal O’Hanlon (Andy’s father) and Pat Shortt (Maggie’s).  Both represent linchpins of our rural culture – family men, who struggle to identify with the younger generation and with their own place in the world, but forge ahead as best they can.  Love, regret and abortion are not the only heavy-hitting issues dealt with in the film, as depression and loneliness are given the space they deserve in this deeply human portrayal of everyday life.  Tom acknowledges the strong role these characters played in centring the film; “Having actors of Ardal O’ Hanlon and Pat Shortt’s talents and stature attached to the film was a massive boost, especially to an independent production like this.  It was really a dream come true for the cast and crew to be working alongside Ardal and Pat.  My producer Fionn and I were very lucky to get them on board at an early stage in the production.”  Both actors seamlessly support the main characters, young lovers on an unknown path, and give the film an emotional depth heightened by the very real, and often quite specifically rural, issues at play.

 

Not to be outshone, Iseult and Shane’s performances and natural chemistry hold the film’s focus determinedly on their relationship, and the complex decisions that very recognisably make up any joining of two personalities.  There is so much to enjoy in this short, but deep, production, yet, as a film that’s gaining plaudits – including a recent Rising Star win for both Tom Ryan and Iseult Casey at Irish Screen America – and portraying such a distinctively Irish world, it has not yet been given a general release.  Twice Shy does not try to give a definitive stance on the abortion debate, choosing instead to simply start a conversation, and encourage viewers to join in.  However, abortion is still a strong story element of a strong love story, and cannot be dismissed.  While it might seem an unusual choice to include such a controversial topic in an everyday relationship, it is a stark reality faced by over ten women a day in this country.  Twice Shy shines a light on a darkened corner of our collective truth, and reminds us that though the reasons for travelling may be as varied as the reasons for falling in and out of love, the journey remains the same.

 

Twice Shy has screened this year at the Galway Film Fleadh and the Indie Cork Festival. 

 

 

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Review: The Magnificent Seven

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DIR: Antoine Fuqua • WRI:Richard Wenk, Nic Pizzolatto • PRO: Roger Birnbaum, Todd Black • DOP: Mauro Fiore • ED: John Refoua • MUS: Simon Franglen, James Horner • CAST: Chris Pratt, Denzel Washington, Matt Bomer

Remakes, remakes, remakes – as far as the eye can see!  There is nothing new under the sun, and if there was, Hollywood would find a way to make it seem hackneyed and trite.  So let’s get that part out of the way – remakes are awful, they’re lazy, and they serve no purpose other than to squeeze a few more dollars out of nostalgic suckers who want to see their favourite childhood movies with better production on the big screen.  BUT – if you have to remake, reimagine, or revisit an old story… you can do a whole lot worse than a classic Western.  And if you have to do any of the above, replacing Steve McQueen with America’s Sweetheart Chris Pratt can really help ease the pain of repetition…

On to the rest of this ragtag group of misfits and their Western adventure!  If you don’t already know the general story, a small town is beset by hired gunslingers, (updated from banditos for our modern climate), led by violent American magnate Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard).  He has found gold in them there hills, and wants the entire town out of the area so that he can mine, prospect and pan for his money – and he’s not afraid to kill some folks to make his point.  The town suffers many losses, and while out searching for more ammunition to fight back, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) chances upon a bounty hunter taking care of business.  This particular one, Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), is a dab hand at shooting to kill, but has a soft spot for hopeless cases.  When he discovers a past connection to the very rogue who threatens the town, he can’t help but come to their aid.  But there’s no way he can do it alone.  Assembling a motley crew of gunfighters and down-on-their-luck battlers, he plans to defend the town with – you’ve guessed it – seven men.  First up is the gambler, Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt), who joins in order to get back his beloved horse – lost in a bet, naturally – and brings some joviality to the venture.  Next up is war vet Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a sharpshooter from the Civil War who has some secrets of his own.  Goodnight is running with Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), a fiercely loyal lethal assassin who can kill anyone, Bourne-style, with any object.  Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) is a Mexican outlaw with a hell of a shot and a runaway mouth, and Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio stealing the show!) is a hilarious redneck religious tracker from the mountains.  While making their way back to the town they come across Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), who joins this group of law-avoiding but eventually-honourable men…and so there were seven!  With the first part of the movie thus taken up with establishing – in an entertaining manner – the men themselves, the second half digs into the nitty gritty of why they have come together.  As with the original, they train the town to use firearms to defend themselves, become more caring despite their best efforts, and begin a hopeless battle where they are outmatched, outmanned and outgunned.

The movie is fairly prosaic, and has the usual amount of throwback nostalgia you’d expect from something like this, but the star power is an undeniable draw… and everyone is having serious fun with it.  There is a real devotion to the Western feel – with gunfights to highlight how great battle scenes were before CGI and infra-red/motion-detectors used by gadget-happy fighters who can take four or five bullets before they die.  The purity of the Western gunfight is a thing of beauty – and all it needs is bags of guns, and lots of shooting.

The Magnificent Seven, 2016 version, is never going to be mistaken for a fantastic movie – few remakes ever are.  Coming from Antoine Fuqua, whose best credit is 2001’s Training Day, hopes weren’t necessarily that high – but he has brought the requisite amount of humour, nostalgia and good old-fashioned cowboy-shooting to a genre that never fails to excite.  Westerns aren’t going anywhere, and as much as I am loathe to bolster Hollywood’s nostalgia-happy speeding train, this wasn’t the worst remake I’ve seen.  It’s entertaining, fun, has good actors, great gunfights, and I didn’t feel the long running time.  While missing the gravity of Yul Brynner or Charles Bronson, those involved inhabit the Western world with zeal, and bring a weight of real effort to their roles.  In the end, it’s a pretty authentic reimagining of a classic story, and as remakes go, it’s not half bad.

 

Sarah Griffin

132 minutes
12A (See IFCO for details)

The Magnificent Seven is released 23rd September 2016

The Magnificent Seven– Official Website

 

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WFT.I Podcast: Julie Ryan, Producer of ‘The Young Offenders’

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Brought to you by Women in Film and Television Ireland and Film Ireland, this podcast features producer Julie Ryan talking to Sarah Griffin about her career to date and her work on The Young Offenders.

Julie is an international producer having produced the short film Take a Seat (Official selection for the Hollywood Film Festival and Palm Springs International Shortfest), Blood and Water (Best narrative at the Los Angeles Cinema Festival of Hollywood & Official selection for the Action on Film International Film Festival at Los Angeles). She has worked on numerous TV shows in Ireland, Canada and the US including Showrunners the Documentary, which debuted No.1 on the iTunes documentary chart in the US.

The Young Offenders is out in cinemas from 16th September and has the widest release of any Irish film so far this year.

 

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